The new generation of Mexican filmmakers finds a star in Gerardo Naranjo, the director and co-writer of Miss Bala, a terrifying tale of a beauty contest that ends in horror. And if you don't think reality TV is moving in that direction, wake up. Model-turned-actress Stephanie Sigman excels as Laura Guerrero, a restless teen who skips out on her father and younger brother and heads to Tijuana to try out for the title of Miss Baja California. To celebrate making the first cut, Laura parties at a club that turns into a shooting gallery between American DEA agents and a gang of drug runners with a heavy revenge agenda. Lino (Noe Hernandez), the gang leader, enlists Laura as an unwilling accomplice, which begins her descent into a rabbit hole of corruption that leaves no one unscathed, even when Lino arranges for Laura to win the crown. It's one of the film's dark ironies that Miss Bala translates as Miss Bullet. In this perverse version of Alice in Wonderland, newcomer Sigman meets every challenge in a complex role. And Naranjo, a graduate of the American Film Institute, has a gift for staging action that defines character. The film is a harrowing experience. It cuts deep.
Twentieth Century Fox/Courtesy Everett Collection